Three stores boasted a full basket again this week, but Waitrose in Bishop's Stortford was the only one to offer the full package of great availability, great service and great store.
Our shopper described the store as "pleasing to the eye" and noted that though staff were busy, they happily escorted her to items she was looking for. The aisles were clearly signed and she only had to queue for a minute at the checkout, where the assistant offered her a bag for life.
Asda in High Wycombe also offered a satisfying shopping experience with 100% availability. There were plenty of staff available and an assistant helped our shopper locate one of the items. However, a six-minute queue demoted it to second place.
Mistakes on our shopper's receipt let Morrisons in Killingworth down. She was charged twice for the naan bread then refunded for the wrong item. However, it too boasted 100% availability, a clean and tidy store and a good car park.
Availability was not so good at Sainsbury's in Banbury, the store was untidy and stacking trolleys blocked the aisles. However, staff on the fresh produce aisle fetched out-of-stock items from the back of the store.
The aisles at Tesco in Westhill were blocked by staff preparing online deliveries and one item was out of stock, but staff helped our shopper locate several items.
Winner: Sara Farnsworth, store manager, Waitrose, Bishop's Stortford
What offers do you have on at the moment?
We are really focusing on offering great value – particularly through price cuts. We have some good offers on duck legs and desserts, Pringles and tins of biscuits for Christmas. We recently had 25% off our inner cellar fine wines, which went down well.
Who are your biggest competitors?
Our nearest competitor is a large Sainsbury's. We also have a Tesco and M&S nearby. We try and concentrate on doing what we do well. We try and make sure our standards are as high as they possibly can be.
What products are selling particularly well?
There has been a significant increase in sales of regional fruit and vegetables. Our East Anglian fresh produce has seen a fantastic sales increase. Our service counters are performing particularly well – they have really benefited from specialist trained staff. Spirits are performing well, too, as are pomegranates and blueberries.
What would you change about the store?
I would love a bigger store to enable us to improve our offer and experience for the customers. It would be great to have better customer facilities including a larger car park!
How much freedom do you have in selecting your stock?
We are always talking to our customers to see what they want and our head office is quite flexible. We have a facility for product requests and add lines where possible. Being close to Stansted Airport, we have a lot of Polish and Portuguese workers here who often give feedback on what products they want.
Why was your store last in the papers?
We have just launched milk pouches and jugs to use with them and the local paper reported on that. We have also been in the papers for supporting local causes, including Bishop’s Stortford’s carnival and the cadets – we helped them purchase a new minibus through in-store fundraising.
How do you motivate staff?
Through supporting, praising, encouraging and coaching staff to achieve their full potential. Everyone has the potential to succeed and do the best they can. My job is to bring out the best in my staff.